(ONE) DEFENSE OF THEORY

Rupture of a Soap Bubble by a Projectile (Lucien Bull, 1904)

What is (film) theory?  Why does it matter?  Over the last year or so, I have had to draft responses to these questions (for students who would rather work on “real” films and colleagues who would rather do “real” history).  Though I am someone who takes pleasure in reading theory, arguments for pleasure (i.e., I enjoy it.  You should, too), or for the pleasures of departure (from “real” disciplinary concerns) are not all that convincing.  A first sketch of another argument:  Continue reading

SCREEN 2011

One day left in the Screen 2011 conference.  The theme for this year is “Repositioning Screen History.”  Two days in, I wonder: where are we willing to move our thinking of history and what positions are available to us when we do?  There have been some startling/sharp contributions this year, but the invitation to reposition history seems to have reinvigorated some tired disciplinary positions.  History and real labour on one side, “high theory” and intellectual waste on the other.  Digital anxiety is high, celluloid fetishes abound, model images/origins sought after, 1980s New History approaches perhaps about as radical as we are willing to push/reposition.

A few initial (not-so-radical) thoughts:

I consider film history to be many/multiple and in process (of decay, restoration, remediation).

Digital media is a part of film histories, a site of intersection/exchange, rather than a threat to its recording.

The archive makes (a) film history, as much as it preserves one.

Both the analogue and digital image are fragile, imperfect visual forms.  I (would like to) write with the instability of these media, rather than against or in spite of their eventual obsolescence.

Most depressing conference fact: the UCLA film archive spends $80,000 per month on electricity to cool its film storage units.  We also need a history of film preservation and the environment.

Final thought: the film-as-body figure should be interrogated more carefully.  Film is not a dead/dying fleshy body, the screen is not skin (without some critical/analytical work), etc. The body seems to quietly haunt (some nostalgic, melancholy, anxious) histories.